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(3rd LD) N. Korean official arrives at White House to meet Trump

All Headlines 02:41 June 02, 2018

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in 2nd para)

WASHINGTON, June 1 (Yonhap) -- A senior North Korean official arrived at the White House Friday to deliver a letter from his leader, Kim Jong-un, to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Kim Yong-chol, a close aide to Kim Jong-un, was met by White House chief of staff John Kelly and escorted into the Oval Office, becoming the top North Korean to enter the compound in nearly two decades.

The official traveled from New York following two days of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on a possible summit between their leaders.

Pompeo said after the meetings that "real progress" was made toward "setting the conditions" for a summit, but he also said there remains "a great deal of work to do."

This photo, provided by the U.S. State Department, shows Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the central committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, at a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York on May 31, 2018. (Yonhap)

Depending on the what the letter says, Trump could decide to go ahead with the June 12 summit in Singapore as originally planned.

The two sides are at odds over how far North Korea will go in dismantling its nuclear weapons program and what security guarantees the regime would receive in return.

The U.S. wants to see the North quickly and "irreversibly" dismantle the program before providing significant concessions, but the North has rejected "unilateral" abandonment.

Trump called off the summit in an open letter to Kim last week, citing "open hostility" from the regime. He has since put it back on track amid a flurry of diplomacy to salvage the potentially historic meeting.

North Korean Ambassador to the United Nations Ja Song-nam refused to discuss the outcome of this week's meetings in New York.

"It should be coming if you wait a little," he told Yonhap at Kim Yong-chol's hotel, when asked about his country's position. Asked whether he thinks the summit will happen June 12, he said, "It depends on how the talks go."

Trump announced Thursday that he was expecting the North Korean delegation to deliver a letter from Kim. He said he looks forward to seeing "what's in the letter" and thinks it will be "very positive."

Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the central committee of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party, is the highest-ranking North Korean to visit the U.S. since 2000.

That year Vice Marshal Jo Myong-rok visited the White House and met with then President Bill Clinton.

Kim is under U.S. sanctions for his alleged role in North Korea's nuclear weapons program and other illicit activities, including the 2010 sinking of a South Korean warship that killed 46 sailors.

He was likely granted a temporary waiver to travel to the U.S.

hague@yna.co.kr
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